GADGET WATCH: Samsung Chromebox Series 3

Google has been attempting to take over the computing market for a while now with its Chrome operating system and netbooks. But now, it’s attempting to take the desktop market as well.

The Chromebox is a cheap alternative to some of the entry-level computers on the market. But for an entrepreneur looking to stock an office, or maybe replace their own desktop, is it worth a look?

Hardware and features

The Chromebox features two USB ports on the front of the device, along with a headphone jack, while on the back it features four USB ports, a DVI output, gigabit Ethernet and two DisplayPort connectors.

Inside, the device is powered by a 1.9Ghz dual-core Intel CPU, with 4GB of RAM and a 16GB solid-state drive. Users can connect with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0, which allows wireless connection for keyboards and mice.

What’s the consensus?

At the Verge, there’s some discussion over the Chrome OS. While the publication says the solid-state drive allows the computer to load very quickly, there is some confusion in the system itself – apps are opened in tabs, rather than windows, just like using a Chrome browser.

“The Chromebook also doesn’t seem to know it has a windowing system yet. The taskbar is a nice system and a clever way to access apps, but if you click on the Gmail icon when you already have a Gmail window open, it just launches another Gmail window rather than taking you to the already-open instance.”

Users are supposed to download Chrome apps as bookmarks, which then open within Chrome itself.

However, it did say the box itself isn’t suited for a lot of graphically intensive activities, like photo editing or watching video.

“For email, document editing, and web browsing, the Chrome OS experience is at least as good as any desktop operating system – I’d rather use Gmail on the Chromebook than in Chrome on my Macbook Air.”

“Once Google solves the offline problem – which it’s been promising to do since Chrome OS first debuted – Chrome OS could really be a compelling option for people who want a computer that’s not hard to figure out and doesn’t overwhelm you with options or apps.”

Over at TechRadar, there’s some criticism of the fact the gadget doesn’t feature an HDMI port, which the publication notes is “something of a surprise”. It also points out that there’s no VGA port, meaning some customers will need to buy adapters.

However, it did have a fair amount of praise for the OS itself, with the extra power in the box allowing it to “boot in seconds”.

“That it is an ideal extra computer used for when you simply need to surf rather than to get to grips with more memory intensive programs,” it said.

“This latter point is perhaps the crux – if you want to spend hours on productivity programs, video or picture editing, for instance, or constructing complicated office documents, then the Chromebox is probably not for you.”
It also said users are limited to what Google can offer on its Chrome store, although whether that’s a disadvantage or not will depend on the user.

CNet praised the OS for allowing more offline support for documents and media files, although said that with so much taking place on the box, there are some situations where a faster processor may be warranted.

“The problem is that the Chromebox is a newcomer in a largely Windows-focused world of software and peripherals. Its newness offers would-be buyers the biggest challenges,” it says.

Who’s it for?

The Samsung Chromebox is essentially a way to access the cloud. Don’t expect to be doing any heavy lifting here – more vigorous programs for video editing, photo editing and other types of media manipulation are best left to a more powerful box.

But if you’re looking for a simple device to just access the internet, check email, look up some documents and watch YouTube clips, then this is probably a good bet. Combine it with a nice wireless keyboard and mouse set, along with a cheap monitor, and this will work just fine as a casual device.

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